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Ultimately, the process of composing, recording, and mixing a track comes down to the final master. Mastering engineers dedicate their careers to developing their ears so they can balance levels, position the stereo or surround image, equalize, and optimize a track’s levels while preserving the musicality of the original recording. A mastering engineer’s trust in his or her ears depends upon the confidence they have in the tools of the trade.
To this end, B&H is proud to offer Dangerous Music’s line of mixing and mastering equipment. Designed by mastering-electronics engineer Chris Muth, the Dangerous Music line includes digital-to-analog converters, monitoring controllers, analog summing mixers, and shelving EQs dedicated to finishing your mix.
The newest edition to the Dangerous Music product line, the Source, is a compact portable digital-to-analog converter and monitor controller. Just 12 ¾” wide and 1 5/8” high, the Source is designed to rest neatly underneath your laptop and fit in your bag. Alternatively, you can purchase a rack-mountable faceplate and install the device into 1U of a traditional 19” studio rack.
The heart of the Source is a pair of 192 kHz/24-bit, mastering-grade, digital-to-analog converters, designed from years of Chris Muth’s experience in circuit layout and custom console builds, for mastering facilities such as Sterling Sound. The Dangerous Music converters are designed to sound transparent but not clinical, musical but uncolored. Sonic transparency is essential for making good decisions when mastering a mix.
For inputs, the source accommodates two analog XLR inputs, one AES/SPDIF digital input (to DAC #1), and one USB 2.0 digital connection (to DAC #2). An 1/8” TRS input calibrated to accommodate the output level of an iPhone or similar personal media device is included on the front so you or your client can easily reference finished tracks through the same high-end monitoring. A series of toggle buttons on the front of the device allows you to choose which sources are being fed to the headphones and speaker outputs, respectively.
For monitoring, the Source features two stereo balanced ¼” TRS headphone outputs on the front panel so that you and your client can listen to the mix on headphones you know well. The device also features two stereo pairs of balanced XLR outputs so you can connect to a pair of main monitors as well as a pair of alternate reference speakers. This is helpful because it allows you to select between and compare the way the mix sounds through different speaker systems.
The job of the mastering engineers is to prepare the final mix in such a way that it will sound good on a broad range of setups, such as home hi-fi speakers, ear buds, headphones, car stereos, club sound systems, and everything in between. Having an alternative speaker output will help you mix for different playback platforms.
Though primarily intended for mixing and mastering, the Source has also become popular among DJs. The unit’s portable, lightweight design makes it easy to bring to a gig. Its dual independent DACs allow you to aggregate audio devices in your computer for front of house and cue, and its selectable headphone outputs and high-power headphone amplifiers work great for hearing your cue in a loud club. Best of all, the pristine quality of its digital-to-analog conversion is sure to sweeten the sound of your set.
Suppose you have already invested in a rack full of high-end equipment and you want to work with the sound of your current audio interface or dedicated digital-to-analog converter. Maybe what you really need is a full-featured and future-expandable device that will manage and route your signal to different outputs without coloring the sound. In this case, the Monitor ST might be the right tool for you. The device is a 2U rack-mountable controller that allows you to switch between four analog input sources via a 25-pin D-sub cable and one analog auxiliary input source via a left and right pair of XLR connectors. You can then send the signal to three different pairs of reference speakers with independent subwoofer control and filter, a cue amp output via XLR connection, and a pair of headphones.
The unit features a built-in talkback microphone for communicating with the musicians and a desktop remote control that connects to the device via CAT-5 cable. The remote control features a stepped analog volume knob so you can precisely set and repeatedly reset with the output settings for your mix.
One of the best features of the Monitor ST is that you can expand the unit’s functionality over time by connecting it to a Dangerous Music’s Monitor SR for surround-sound monitoring or to an Additional Switching System.
The Additional Switching System is a rack-mountable modular expansion chassis that allows you to add the Uniswitch RS-232 video switcher for working in broadcast, the DAC-ST stereo digital-to-analog converter, or a DAC-SR surround sound digital-to-analog converter.
This route will appeal to engineers who want to have discrete application-specific devices in the rack and who might eventually want to incorporate Dangerous Music’s digital-to-analog Converter(s) into their signal chain.
For the engineers who want a more integrated approach, consider the D-Box. Winner of a 2008 Electronic Musician Editor’s Choice and a 2008 TEC Award, the D-Box combines the functionality of a mastering grade digital-to-analog converter, a monitoring control station with talkback, and an eight-channel analog summing mixer—all into a 1U rack-mountable chassis. It’s a great solution if you want to combine several Dangerous Music technologies into a single rack space.
The D/A converters in the D-Box provide similar benefits to what you get from the Source, and the unit offers monitor controls similar to those found in the Monitor ST. Additionally, you also get eight channels of analog summing.
Though the majority of music produced these days is recorded and mixed on a computer with a Digital Audio Workstation, mastering engineers will often finish a track in the analog domain. To do this with the D-Box, you simply divide your mix into eight logical subgroups, or “stems,” within your DAW (kick, snare, bass, vocals, synths, etc), and then send each stem through a separate digital-to-analog converter on your audio interface. You then connect the eight analog outputs from the audio interface to a 25-pin D-Sub snake, which in turn connects to the D-Box.
In the D-Box, the stems are summed in the analog domain, channels 7 and 8 can be panned in the stereo field, and the overall output level can be adjusted before being sent back through your audio interface’s analog-to-digital converters. Summing analog stems adds punch, opens up headroom, enhances details, expands the stereo image, and allows the engineer to focus on the mix as a whole.
If one eight-channel summing bus is not enough for your workflow, or if you want to expand the summing capabilities of the D-Box, consider the Dangerous Music 2-BUS LT. The 2-BUS LT offers two analog summing busses for an additional 16 channels of analog summing. The device occupies 1U of rack space and connects to 16 individual outputs on your digital-to-analog converter using two 25-pin D-Sub connector cables. The 16 channels can be switched between stereo and mono, and then summed in the analog domain using the 2-BUS LT’s circuitry. You then send the summed analog stereo mix back through the main XLR outputs of the 2-BUS LT to a stereo input pair of analog-to-digital converters on your audio interface. This allows you to re-record the summed analog stereo mix into your DAW. You can also connect a patch bay to the 2-BUS LT and integrate your outboard gear into the signal chain.
In addition to monitoring and summing analog stems, the mastering stage of music production involves a final round of signal processing. For this purpose, Dangerous Music offers the notable 1U rack mountable BAX EQ stereo shelving equalizer. Inspired by the tone-control-circuit design of the famous electronics engineer Peter-James Baxandall, the BAX EQ features a low cut filter with adjustable frequency, a high cut filter with adjustable frequency, and stereo bass and treble controls with adjustable shelves for fine tuning the musicality of your mix. The controls are stepped to ensure repeatability.
The low cut filter lets you remove infrasonic content that muddies your sound, and the high cut filter helps you remove ultrasonic content that challenges your analog-to-digital converters. The treble stereo shelving control allow you to add sweetness and sparkle to the top end without harsh sibilance, while the bass controls allow you to add definition and weight to the bass without causing unwanted rumble or boom.
You can use the BAX EQ for tracking, mixing, and of course, mastering your final mix.
For more information, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.